The Kingdom of Heaven: Revelation 20-22


With today’s post we complete a year of reading and blogging through the Bible. These daily devotions will remain archived here at the Bible in a Year Blog, but in 2020 I plan to post weekly studies instead of daily devotions. These weekly writings will cover the chapters you will read each week in a yearly reading plan from Genesis to Revelation.

Today’s reading: Revelation 20-22.

Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about. ― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

“Where will my journey of faith take me?”

N. T. Wright’s words describe heaven’s invasion of earth. In one sense it began with Jesus’ ministry on earth. It intensified as the church spread and grew. It will be fully realized, the invasion will be complete, when earth is remade and redeemed and the New Jerusalem comes down out of the new heaven. Until then there is still much that must happen according to the Revelation.

The Kingdom of heaven on earth

They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. Revelation 20:4-6
  • The thousand year reign of Christ. Following Jesus’ return to earth, he will rule on earth for a millennium. His reign will fulfill the Old Testament promises which God made about the throne of David and the restoration of the Promised Land. Jerusalem will be the capitol of the world, and Jesus will ensure its peace.
  • The resurrection of the saved. Those who were martyred for their faith will come to life and rule with Christ during the millennium. Those believers who had already been caught up to be with Jesus will also govern with him. The earth will be populated by those who survived the Great Tribulation, including believing Jews. Life will continue. Children will be born, but they will no longer die prematurely. Men and women will grow old, but their lives will be full and blessed. The millennium will be a living demonstration of the glory of God in a material world that is fully obedient to him.

The Kingdom of heaven rejected

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. Revelation 20:11-12
  • The imprisonment, release, and final punishment of Satan. Satan will be imprisoned in the Abyss during the thousand years, but at the end of that time he will be released. His influence will cause many to rebel against God once more, but God will destroy them and throw Satan into the lake of fire. This final conflict illustrates that even in the most perfect of circumstances, with Jesus ruling the earth, men are still capable of rejecting God’s grace in order to pursue their own selfish desires.
  • The great white throne judgment and the second death. Following the final conflict and the destruction of Satan, the unsaved dead are resurrected and come before the judgment seat of God. The records of their deeds are examined, and then the book of life is examined. Since they are not listed in the book of life, and because their deeds confirm their rejection of God, they are thrown into the lake of fire along with Satan (the second death). The redeemed, who have already been resurrected, are not mentioned here, but every believer will have his deeds judged in order to determine what rewards he receives in heaven.

The Kingdom of heaven in heaven

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:2-5
  • New heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem. As God redeemed men from sin, so he will redeem the earth from its subjection to sin. Heaven and earth are remade, perfect and eternal. The center of life in the redeemed earth, literally heaven on earth, is the New Jerusalem. John describes an enormous, 1400 mile wide city, a giant jewel, but will the New Jerusalem be an actual building? The angel calls the city “the bride, the wife of the lamb,” a term usually reserved for the body of believers. The New Testament says that believers are being built up into a living temple with Jesus as its foundation. It may be that the body of believers are the New Jerusalem more so than any city could be.
  • The river of life and the tree of life. The Old Testament ended with a curse, but the Revelation says there will be no curse any more. The river of life flows out of the city. The tree of life, not seen since the garden of Eden, grows along its banks and heals the nations. The redeemed live with Jesus face to face, and reign with him eternally.
  • Jesus is coming soon. Two thousand years after Jesus’ return to heaven, this declaration can seem confusing. Is Jesus coming soon? Yes, in every way. Each mortal person will face death soon enough, and then we come face to face with eternity. In God’s time, a thousand years is as a day, and by that reckoning it has only been two days since Jesus returned to heaven. From heaven’s perspective, all of time is but a dot, and eternity stretches out like an infinite arrow. Jesus promised he would come back soon, and by now we should be certain of his promises. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.

“I am still in the land of the dying; I shall be in the land of the living soon.” ― John Newton’s last words

The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?  ― John Piper, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself

We may speak about a place where there are no tears, no death, no fear, no night; but those are just the benefits of heaven. The beauty of heaven is seeing God.― Max Lucado, Experiencing the Heart of Jesus Workbook: Knowing His Heart, Feeling His Love

There is, in the text, a cry for the coming of the Lord. If you read the verse in connection with that which goes before it, you will be persuaded that the cry of the Spirit and the bride is addressed to the Lord Jesus concerning His Second Advent. As the echo of the Savior’s previous words, “Behold, I come quickly,” the Spirit and the bride say, Come. This cry is continually going up from the Spirit and from the Church of God and the more gracious the season, the more intense the prayer…We are looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” is the desire of every instructed saint…But there is a second ministry of the Church which is the cry for the coming of sinners to Christ. In this respect, “the Spirit and the bride say, Come.” It is a very sad calamity when any Church ceases from its mission work. It is clearly out of fellowship with the Spirit of God and has ceased to work with Him. The cry of, “Come,” should never cease at any time or in any place. It should be addressed to all men as we have opportunity. The world should ring with, “Come to Jesus! Come to Jesus! Come and welcome, Sinner, come!” For this purpose the Spirit of God dwells among men and for this purpose there is a Church left on earth! – Charles Spurgeon

Image by Neil R on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0

Babylon is fallen – the Lord Almighty reigns: Revelation 19


Today’s reading: Revelation 17-19.

He came the first time as a lamb. He will return as the lion of Judah. Before, he was a servant. Then, he will rule the world. He stayed but a few years in his first appearance. The next time he will remain forever. Mercy and forgiveness were his offer before. Judgment will be his work when he comes back. He submitted to the world in order to save the world when he walked the earth as a man. The world will submit to him when he returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Revelation unveils Jesus walking among his churches, the worthiness of Jesus to open the property deed to the world, the birth pangs of the tribulation, Satan’s defeat in heaven which brought his war to earth, and the rise of Satan’s beast to dominate the world. But the beast’s time is short, and Jesus will return quickly to defeat him and his false world religion. John pictures that false religion as a woman, Babylon, who stands in contrast to the woman clothed in the sun.

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” Revelation 18:1-3

Adultery and prostitution, in the Old Testament, are always a symbol for idolatry and false worship. Babylon the Great represents the spirit of false religion that has existed since Eve gave in to the serpent’s temptation. John describes the worldwide traits of false religion:

  • It persecutes those who worship God.
  • It is greedy for trade and profit.
  • It is obsessed with appearance, covering itself with all the external trappings of beauty.
  • It permeates all the world with its idolatry.

Babylon is doomed, and the return of Jesus will seal its fate.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.  Revelation 19:11-16

The destruction of Babylon coincides with the defeat of the Antichrist and the Kings of the earth at Armageddon. With that done, Jesus sets about the important work awaiting him.

  • The Beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire.
  • The wedding supper of Jesus and his bride, the church, takes place. Believers are united with Jesus, face to face, “and so we will be with the Lord forever.”
  • Jesus judges justly but fulfills the wrath of God against the unrepentant rebels of the world.

Worship God…That’s what the whole book of Revelation is about. That’s the point of all God’s judgments, all God’s dealings with the world. All God’s plans for history from beginning to end have this one goal—WORSHIP GOD! Don’t worship the wealth of Babylon, don’t worship the power of Babylon, don’t worship the pleasures of Babylon, and don’t even worship the holy messenger who brings you the news that Babylon has fallen forever. WORSHIP GOD! – John Piper

Jesus Christ has a mighty power today—a power which none can measure. He was crucified in weakness, but where is the weakness now? He gave His hands to the nails and His feet to be fastened to the wood but He does so no longer. Now He has mounted on the horse of His exceeding great power and He rules in Heaven and in earth and none can stay His hand, or put Him to dishonor, or dispute His will! O you that love Him, feast your eyes upon Him this day! It is not for me to speak—to do so were but to hold a candle to the sun—but gaze upon Him for yourselves and let your eyes be satiated with the image, as you see Him, once despised and rejected, now taking to Himself His great power! – Charles Spurgeon

Image by Waiting for the Word on Flickr, CC by 2.0

The Mark of the Beast: Revelation 13


Today’s reading: Revelation 13-16.

“How will we recognize the Antichrist?”

This post is about the mark of the beast. I mean that in two ways. There is the mark he requires on others, a brand of some sort that signifies allegiance to him. There is also the mark he makes on the world. He will work under the power and authority of Satan. He goes by many names. Daniel called him the ruler to come. Paul called him the man of sin, the son of perdition, that Wicked, and the man of lawlessness. John wrote of the spirit of antichrist. Revelation calls him the beast.

The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. Revelation 13:5-8

The mark he requires. The entire world must take the mark of the beast or face death. No one will be able to buy or sell without the mark. Christians will not take the mark if their names are in the book of life. The mark is the name of the Antichrist or the number of his name: 666.

  • This could symbolize his demonic imperfection, as 777 would symbolize the perfection of the Trinity.
  • It could be the sum of the numerical value of each letter in his name, a practice called gematria.
  • The mark may signify money. The word for mark was used to describe the engraving of money. It may be an imbedded computer chip which is required to access credit. The mark will be used to control all commerce.

The mark he makes. The name of the beast remains a mystery for now, but his actions have been thoroughly predicted.

  • He manipulates people and events to become ruler of the entire world. Daniel writes that he will overthrow three kings of a ten-king confederation, and that the other seven kings will then submit to his rule.
  • He miraculously survives a mortal head wound.
  • He makes a seven-year peace treaty, but at the midpoint he breaks the treaty, proclaims himself to be God, desecrates the Jewish temple, and begins a three and a half year reign of terror against all those who refuse to worship him.
  • He employs a false prophet who oversees the false religion that idolizes him. The false prophet performs miracles and erects a statue of the beast that all must worship.
  • He will lead a great army with the kings of the earth to battle against Jesus at Armageddon when the Lord returns.

Daniel described his rise and fall:

His power will be mighty, but not by his own power,
And he will destroy to an extraordinary degree
And prosper and perform his will;
He will destroy mighty men and the holy people.
And through his shrewdness
He will cause deceit to succeed by his influence;
And he will magnify himself in his heart,
And he will destroy many while they are at ease.
He will even oppose the Prince of princes,
But he will be broken without human agency. – Daniel 8:24-25

How should believers react to the prospect of such a terrible man and terrible time? Much of modern evangelical preaching claims that God will remove his people before this tribulation comes, but I am not convinced. Yes, God will spare us from his wrath poured out on the unbelieving world, but God’s people have continually suffered the wrath of Satan, and still do so today. Therefore I say let us arm ourselves with words of encouragement. The Antichrist is numbered, and so are his days. Believers are sealed with God’s mark, ensuring our victory.

Let me say something difficult at this point. Our victory may come through suffering. For the early church, that was very true. Their witness of martyrdom gave proof to their faith and sowed seeds of fruitful witness. Throughout the ages Christians have suffered persecution and then seen their spiritual descendants grow and bloom. There is no reason to think the future will be different. Instead of escaping suffering as many modern Christians expect, we are told by John that we will be victorious through our suffering.

Paul says that a “man of lawlessness” is coming. And he says that the “mystery of lawlessness” is already at work. I take this to mean that a distinct figure of great satanic power (verse 9) is coming, but that his mysterious presence can already be felt in the present time. He is “already” here, and he is “not yet” here. Similarly John says, “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already” (1 John 4:3). There is a future antichrist yet to come. But the spirit of antichrist is already in the world. In fact, John goes so far as to say: “You have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18). So both Paul and John picture a final time just before the second coming when a person of great demonic power will rise up in rebellion against the true Christ and his people. In the meantime, the satanic characteristics of that figure are always manifesting themselves in the world with greater or lesser dominance. The antichrist is coming and he is here already. “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is . . . the antichrist” (2 John 1:7). – John Piper

Image by Scott Beale on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0

Witnesses on earth; war in heaven: Revelation 11-12


Today’s reading: Revelation 9-12.

John was shown an earthly temple and told the Gentiles would trample it for forty two months. This period of three and a half years hearkens back to the vision of Daniel, who was told that there would be a period of distress for God’s people such as never had been since the beginning of time. This Great Tribulation would begin at the half-way point of a seven-year treaty made with “the ruler who will come.”

He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 9:27

“The ruler who will come” breaks the treaty, desecrates the Jewish temple, and initiates the Great Tribulation. Daniel was told that between the start of this tribulation, when the abomination is set up in the temple, and its end, there will be 1,290 days, or roughly three and a half years. This prophecy implies that the temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt (there has been no temple since it was destroyed in 70 AD). Perhaps the treaty with the “ruler to come” will pave the way for this end-time temple.

During the three and a half years of the Great Tribulation, the same time that the Gentiles will trample the temple, two witnesses will stand in the temple area and prophesy to the lost world. Like Moses and Elijah they will send plagues and stop the rain. Like Joshua and Zerubbabel at the time of the exiles’ return, they will pour themselves out on behalf of God’s people. No one will be able to stop them until their witness is complete. Then the Antichrist will kill them, but God will resurrect them and take them to heaven in a display of his mighty power.

Then the pendulum of Revelation swings back in time to the birth of Jesus. In allegorical fashion John describes a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars. She labors to give birth to a son who will rule the world with an iron scepter, the Lord Jesus. As she labors the great red dragon, Satan, stands ready to devour her child, who is snatched up to heaven. Who is the woman? Not the church, since Jesus gave birth to the church rather than the other way around. Not Mary, because this woman is pursued by the dragon during the same three and a half year period associated with the tribulation. She most resembles Joseph’s vision of the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowing down to Joseph. Jacob recognized the dream concerned himself (Israel) and his family. This woman is Israel, but also the universal assembly of God’s people in every age, Jews and Gentiles who “obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (An alternative interpretation says that this prophecy refers specifically to believing Jews in the tribulation.)

Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). John saw a great battle in heaven between Satan with his angels and Michael with his angels. Satan lost and was expelled from heaven. Commentators argue about when this did or will happen. Some say it describes Satan’s original fall from grace, others say it describes Satan’s loss of power with the victory of Jesus on the cross, and still others say it will happen just before the tribulation. The results are the same for all these possibilities: the kingdom has come, and the devil works furiously in the short time left to him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12:10-12

Image by Alxx2x on Deviant Art, CC by 3.0

Heaven and Earth: Revelation 4-8


Today’s reading: Revelation 4-8.

Because Jesus is a Lion-like Lamb and a Lamb-like Lion, he has the right to bring the world to an end for the glory of his name and the good of his people. – John Piper

The Revelation swings back and forth through space and time like a cosmic pendulum. Now in heaven, now on earth. Now in the present, now in the future. God’s rule over all these events is the most important lesson for the churches.

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:11-12

In heaven

  • A holy God. God sits on his throne, in a scene that is both present and future, surrounded by elders, angels, and heavenly creatures. No matter what happens, He is in control and waits to receive his saints.
  • The worthy lamb. Who can open the sealed scroll? Who holds the property deed to the world? Who has the authority to dictate what will happen on earth? Only King Jesus who is the lion of Judah and the lamb of God.

On earth

  • The four horsemen. The opening of the scroll sets terrible events in motion. The white horse, conquering the world, is most likely the Antichrist. The red horse brings war, the black horse famine, and the pale horse death. These are the birth pangs of the end times as described by Jesus in Matthew 24.

Between heaven and earth

  • The cosmic disturbance. The darkened sun, blood-red moon, and falling stars are further events from Jesus’ description of the end-times, leading to his second coming.

In heaven

  • The multitude from every group of people. These are the saved, the redeemed, those bought by the blood of the lamb. Where are they? In heaven. Where did they come from? From out of the Great Tribulation. Did they arrive before, during, or after the tribulation? Christians disagree, but Jesus says the angels will gather his elect after the cosmic disturbance (Matthew 24). Paul says it will not happen before the man of lawlessness, the Antichrist, is revealed.

On earth

  • The trumpet judgments. With the church removed from the world, God begins to pour out the full measure of his wrath upon the unbelieving world. One third of the earth’s resources are destroyed. Yet the cry from heaven is “Woe, woe, woe” because even greater judgments are coming.

God is going to invade this earth in force. But what’s the good of saying you’re on his side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else, something it never entered your head to conceive comes crashing in. Something so beautiful to us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left. This time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love, or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down, when it’s become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realize it or not. Now, today, in this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever; we must take it or leave it. – C. S. Lewis

The wars and famines predicted in the second and third seals are not unfamiliar events in the history of the world, but never before since the time of Noah has a judgment so devastating been consummated as to destroy one-fourth of the earth’s population at one stroke. – Walvoord

It seems best to say that the seals, trumpets, and bowls that will be described later are not strictly sequential events. Chronologically, the trumpets do not follow the seals and the bowls do not follow the trumpets. The first six seals are “a summary of the judgments distributed over the whole book; a brief summary of what will occur in ‘the day of the Lord,’ up the time of His actual Apocalypse or Unveiling in chapter 19.” (Bullinger) That span begins with the revelation of the Antichrist (the first seal) and it concludes with the revealing of the face of Him who sits on the throne (the seventh seal). – David Guzik

image by slworking2 on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0

The Unveiling: Revelation 1-3


Today’s reading: Revelation 1-3.

Revelation begins with the end in sight.

Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:7-8

It’s not a gospel book of the good news about Jesus, or a historical account like Acts, or an instructional letter. It is an apocalypse. In modern usage that implies the end of the world, but in terms of Revelation it refers to a title, a theme, and a style. This book is, literally, the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ, meaning the unveiling or uncovering. Something mysterious or hidden is being revealed. That is the title and theme. The style of the book is also apocalyptic, and that style gives meaning to the message of Revelation. Apocalyptic writing, like that in the book of Daniel, includes symbolism, dreams or visions, angelic interpreters, symbolic numbers, forecasts of the end times, and an expectation that this world will have to pass away to make room for a better future. Like Daniel’s vision which was sealed up until the end time, it may also mean that parts of Revelation will not make sense until the time of its fulfillment.

This is the Apocalypse of Jesus. He is its author and its subject. Revelation emphasizes that Jesus is eternal. He has existed since before the creation of the universe. He will still be ruling when this world melts away and is replaced. He is ever-present. He stood among the churches in the days of John the apostle and he still stands among his churches today. He is pre-eminent. To say he is first and last speaks of his superiority in time but also his exceeding greatness in character. He is expected. His coming again is near, so that we must remain watchful for his return.

Revelation speaks of things that have been, the time when Jesus walked the earth in human form. It speaks of things that are, the present age when Jesus walks among his churches in spirit. It speaks of things to come, when Jesus will return to reign on earth.

Above all else, Revelation is a message to the churches, and it conveys a pastor’s or shepherd’s concern, whether that be Jesus or the apostle John, for the congregations of the churches. I don’t believe the seven churches of Revelation symbolize seven periods of world history – these were real churches – but they do exemplify strengths and weaknesses of many churches and they illustrate how Jesus interacts with his body of believers.

Ephesus: the church that abandoned its early love for Jesus. To them he is the one who holds them in his hand and walks among them. He commands them to repent, but commends their perseverance. Those who overcome will eat from the tree of life. If we love Jesus greatly we will receive the gift of eternal life.

Smyrna: the church facing persecution. To them he is the first and last, the one who died and rose to life. If they remain faithful, even to death, they will receive the crown of life. Those who overcome will not be hurt by the second death. Persecution will not destroy our faith because believers do not face spiritual death.

Pergamum: the church with false teachers. To them he is the one with the two-edged sword. Jesus commands them to repent, or he will fight against them. Those who overcome will receive the hidden manna and a white stone with a new name written on it. Believers have a unique relationship with Jesus by which he nourishes and strengthens them.

Thyatira: had a false prophetess. To them he is the one with eyes like fire and feet like burnished bronze. Unless they repent, those who commit adultery with the false prophetess with suffer. Those who overcome will receive authority over the nations and will be given the morning star. Believers will govern the nations when Jesus returns.

Sardis: had fallen asleep. To them he is the one who holds them. Jesus told them to wake up or he would come like a thief.  Those who overcome will receive white clothes and their names will never be removed from the book of life. The righteous actions of believers are a confirmation that they will receive eternal life.

Philadelphia: had patiently endured. To them he is the one who holds the keys, opening what no one can shut and shutting what no one can open. Because they have patiently endured, he will keep them from the trial coming upon the whole earth. Those who overcome will be a pillar in the temple of God, in the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. The body of Christ, the church, will be a living temple in the New Jerusalem.

Laodicea: had only a lukewarm faith. To them he is the faithful and true witness, the ruler of creation. He counsels them to buy true gold from him, and white clothes, and salve to cure their blindness. He stands at the door and knocks. Those who overcome will sit with him on his throne. Those who accept Jesus as Lord will rule and reign with him.

Jesus calls to the overcomers because there will be much to overcome in the days ahead. Those who endure the difficult times will enjoy eternal blessings in the new heaven and earth.

Image by auggie.wren on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0

Supporting the missionaries: 2 John, 3 John


Today’s reading: 2 John – Jude.

The world has been full of itinerant preachers since the earliest days of the church. Back then they were called prophets. Today we call them missionaries or evangelists. Many are spirit-filled men and women who are working hard to enlarge God’s kingdom. Some are con-men out to make an easy living. Some are agents of the devil spreading falsehood. Second and Third John try to strike a balance between our awareness of those who are false and our support of those who are true.

Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. 2 John:7-11

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. 3 John:5-8

Second John describes the message of the false teachers who were invading the early church. Second Peter and Jude share many of the same verses about the character and message of the false teachers (Second Peter probably used Jude as source material). They deny the doctrines about Jesus Christ. They run ahead into false teachings that deny the deity or humanity of Jesus, or contest his Lordship, or refute his resurrection. They abuse his grace to promote immoral, sensual lifestyles. Believers need to be on guard in order to identify these deceivers so that they do not support them in any way, such as offering them hospitality.

There are also servants of God who are traveling about speaking the truth of God to the lost and to churches. Some of them are evangelists who concentrate on speaking the gospel to unbelievers. Others are missionaries who work on establishing churches in unreached areas of the world, including America. They deserve our support and hospitality. As John said, the pagan world will not help them; it’s up to believers to do so. To guard against abuses, the early church had teachings (the Didache) which specified how the itinerant messengers should be treated (housing them for no more than two to three days, for instance; turning them out if it became clear they were only seeking money). The possibility of abuses did not stop the practice of supporting the prophets, however, and we should not stop supporting the tested and true missionaries of our own day.

A man’s circumstances may be such that he cannot become a missionary or a preacher. Life may have put him in a position where he must get on with a secular job, staying in the one place and carrying out the routine duties of life and living. But where he cannot go, his money and his prayers and his practical support can go. Not everyone can be, so to speak, in the front line; but by supporting those who are there, he can make himself an ally of the truth. When we remember that, all giving to the wider work of Christ and his church must become not an obligation but a privilege, not a duty but a delight. The church needs those who will go out with the truth, but it also needs those who will be allies of the truth at home. – William Barclay, Daily Study Bible

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